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Shuai Zhang

Faculty Photo

Research Assistant Professor
Materials Science & Engineering


Shuai Zhang's research interests mainly focus on utilizing in-situ high-resolution and high-speed atomic force microscopy (AFM) and 3D Fast Force Mapping (3DFFM) to understand the structure, dynamics, and function of bio-macromolecular self-assembly at solid-liquid interfaces, inorganic minerals, clays and oxides, and further integrating these observations with simulation and deep learning (DL) to describe the corresponding models and adaptively control the synthetic outcomes. He is also interested in how hydration water layer effects the structure, dynamics, and function of bio-macromolecule and how it is modulated by environmental stimuli.


  • Aarhus University, Denmark, 2014
  • Jilin University, P.R.China, 2009

Previous appointments

  • Acting Instructor, Materials Science & Engineering, University of Washington, 2020
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Materials Science & Engineering, University of Washington, 2019-2020
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 2015-2019

Research Statement

  • The study of bio-molecular self-assembly, dynamics and functions at solid-liquid interfaces via in-situ high resolution & high-speed atomic force microscopy.
  • In-situ study the crystallization and growth of inorganic minerals, clays and oxides, and to further visualize the interfacial structures and properties.
  • Visualizing the structure and kinetics of interfacial hydration layers.
  • Property studies of 2D Van der Waals materials by atomic force microscopy, electrostatic force microscopy, conductive atomic force microscopy, etc.
  • The study of bacterial morphology, interior structure and functions by in vitro single-cell dissection.
  • Disease related tissue evaluation and corresponding diagnosis by atomic force microscopy.

Current projects

The Center for the Science of Synthesis Across Scales, Energy Frontier Research Center, Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences

Elucidating the conformational switch of R-bodies: a pH-responsive shape-shifting protein machine, Royalty Research Fund, UW

Select publications

  1. Assembly of a Patchy Protein into Variable 2D Lattices via Tunable, Multiscale Interactions, Zhang, S.*; Alberstein, R.*; De Yoreo, J.J.; Tezcan, A.F.; Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17562-1
  2. Engineering self-assembly of biomacromolecules at solid-liquid interfaces, Zhang, S.#, *; Chen, J.*; Liu, J.*; Pyles, H., Baker, D.; Chen, C.; De Yoreo, J.J.; Advanced Materials, DOI: 10.1002/adma.201905784.
  3. Controlling protein assembly on inorganic crystals through designed protein interfaces, Pyles, H.*; Zhang, S.*; Baker, D.; De Yoreo, J.J.; Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1361-6.
  4. Barrier-Free Nucleation of 2D Materials, Chen, J.; Zhu, E.; Liu, J.; Zhang, S.; Heinz, H.; Huang, Y.; De Yoreo, J.J.; Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aau4146.
  5. In vitro single-cell dissection: interior structure of cable bacteria, Jiang, Z.*; Zhang, S.*; Klausen, L.H.; Song, J.; Li, Q.; Wang, Z.; Stokke, B.T.; Huang, Y.; Besenbacher, F.; Nielsen, L.P.; Dong, M.; Proc Natl Acad Sci. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1807562115.
  6. Tuning crystallization pathways through sequence-engineering of biomimetic polymers. Ma, X.; Zhang, S.; Jiao, F.; Newcomb, C.; Zhang, Y.; Prakash, A.; Liao, Z.; Baer, M.; Mundy, C.; Pfaendter, J.; Noy, A.; Chen, C.; De Yoreo, J.; Nature Materials. (Cover) DOI:10.1038/nmat4891.

Honors & awards

  • 2020 ‘Protein Chess Board in Nanoscale’ recognized by the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure image contest
  • 2019 Outstanding Performance Award, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA.
  • 2018 1st place poster award of 26th American Association for Crystal Growth, Western Section Conference, USA.
  • 2017 Outstanding Performance Award, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA.
  • 2014 Ph.D. prize of the Danish Academy of Natural Sciences, Denmark
  • 2013 Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Students Abroad, China.